BY BRIAN RZEPPA
Rick Lewis grew up in Trenton not just playing sports with his friends, but also commentating on them as they happened.
Whether it was ping-pong, basketball or baseball, Lewis had a knack for calling the action and it was something that appealed most to him about sports in general.
Now living in Denver and hosting a popular radio show, former Trenton resident Lewis will get the chance to do just that. Announced during this off season, Lewis will take over from three-time Super Bowl Champion Ed McCaffrey and become the Denver Broncos color commentator for 850 KOA.
Growing up in Trenton until moving after sixth grade, Lewis was first drawn into sports through not only his relationship with neighborhood friends, but also because of the success of the various Trenton recreational and school sports programs.
His closest friend was Steve Kornacki, a 1974 graduate of Trenton High School who went on to become a sports writer for the Detroit Free Press and MLive, and currently works with the University of Michigan as a feature writer.
Lewis said Kornacki played a vital role in his passion toward sports.
“I loved growing up in Trenton,” Lewis said, whose name was Rick Gee prior to entering broadcasting. “I lived a couple of houses down from my best friend, Steve Kornacki, and I have such great memories because it was such a great place to grow up. We spent a lot of time playing at McLouth Park and at Owen Elementary, playing really competitive sandlot games of football, basketball and other sports,” Lewis said. “I remember my dad would take me to Trenton High School football and basketball games and they were really good back then, so my dream as a kid was to be able to play football for Trenton.”
Lewis would go on to play football at the college level for Northern Arizona University and it was there that he realized that a career in the entertainment industry might be the best route to follow.
“I was playing football at Northern Arizona and one day at the gym a guy told me he had a show on the campus radio station and he asked me to sit in. I went in and he put me on the air and I thought it was just the coolest thing, so I eventually got my own show and realized that I had found my thing.”
After ascending through the college radio station circuit, Lewis decided to take a different step in his path through the entertainment world. At 21 years old, he opted to quit school and move to Los Angeles to become an actor.
“A lot of people had told me I should be on TV and in movies and I believed it, so I quit school and moved out to LA. I had $5 in my pocket, everything I owned in a pillowcase, I didn’t have a car and it was just such a great time because I had such confidence and no fear of failure.”
It was in Los Angeles that Rick Gee became Rick Lewis.
“There was a legendary LA DJ named Rick Dees and our names were so similar I was asked to change mine when I started in LA,” he said. “I changed it legally in 1987 to Rick Lewis once my career became really established.”
As his career progressed and he picked up gigs in different TV shows and movies, he returned to college at Long Beach State and enrolled in its radio and television program. He graduated near the top of his class and soon had a host of options to return to radio.
After searching around, he landed a spot at KMET in Los Angeles, which is one of the largest rock stations in the country. It was in 1990 that he moved to Denver and started the top rated show in the city’s history, “The Lewis and Floorwax Radio Show.”
Though he has since taken on his own morning show, The Rick Lewis Show, he has maintained an eye on sports and finally got his big break with the Broncos at the end of last season.
“I started getting interested in sports again and did the high school game of the week in Denver and did the Broncos pre-game show. As they had begun to look for a replacement for Ed (McCaffery), I was able to take on some color work this year and that evolved into this opportunity.”
He is excited for the chance to be on the broadcast for a successful team like the Broncos, who won the Super Bowl as recently as 2016, but also knows that there may be some challenges in the transition.
“Out of the 32 radio broadcast teams in the NFL, I’m the only color analyst that didn’t play in the NFL so it’s pretty unusual to be able to get that job. The style of radio I’ve done is as an entertainer, so I want to make things as entertaining as possible. My color is not only about the game, but I want to make it as fun to listen to.”
While he has reached incredible heights within the radio industry, Lewis still manages to come back home to Trenton every now and then to reminisce on the childhood that he enjoyed so much. In his most recent trip back, he was able to run into an old friend on a chance encounter.
“I took my wife and my daughter back to show them where I grew up and we were driving around by McLouth and I was telling them about my best friend Steve and telling them about all we used to do. As we were driving, out of nowhere I saw Steve jogging down the street and I got out of the car and ran up to him. He was in town visiting his mom and I ran up to him to give him a hug and almost started crying. The fact that it happened was unbelievable and amazing.”
In addition to his chance encounter with Kornacki on his stop back in Trenton, Lewis recently welcomed his old friend onto his morning show in Denver to reminisce about growing up in the city.
The close relationships that he was able to form during his time in Trenton and the memories that he was able to develop still impact him to this day and he remembers Trenton very fondly.
“Between my friendship with Steve and the memories I have, Trenton was just such a great place to grow up. I remember going to the football field and remembering the special times there that I spent with my dad and I’ll never forget it. Trenton is really a wonderful place to grow up.”